...so feel me when I bring it / Sing it loud (what?) / I'm from the Lou and I'm proud / Run a mile - for the cause, I'm righteous above the law / Playa my style's raw / I'm "Born to Mack" like Todd Shaw / Forget the fame, and the glamour...
It's Nelly, baby!! What's a (way overdue) recap about a St. Louis race without a little "Country Grammar" thrown in for good measure? No, you haven't unwittingly hopped aboard the way-back time machine and teleported to the year 2000. I'm sure that there are more up-to-date musical representations of the area, but I'm an old; can't help it. Nelly it is.
I ran the GO! St. Louis 13.1 (half marathon number eleven) in April 2014 with the awesome Adriana, and it is going to take a LOT for another race to beat how much fun we had at out on the course. Pace-wise, it was the slowest half marathon finish time for either of us, but we knew going in that we wouldn't be going full throttle at race pace. Adriana -- who is a total rockstar to have even done the race -- is battling a pretty gnarly injury, and doesn't need to exacerbate it at this point before she starts her training for her fall full marathon. So, I went in knowing that this wasn't a PR weekend, and intended to make the most of my weekend with Adriana and her family.
Friday afternoon, I flew up and arrived at my hotel, the Hilton at the Ballpark. Hung out in the hotel bar (very comfortable; free wifi) and got some work done while I waited for Adriana and her family to arrive. I would absolutely recommend this race for runners doing any of Go! weekend events in the future. It's not right at the start or finish line, but was really conveniently located so that we had no problems getting there, and I thought that the ten-fifteen minutes to and and from the race gave us a good chance to warm up our legs or cool down afterwards. No complaints. But I would REALLY recommend this hotel for people coming into town for a Cardinals game. It's literally right outside the stadium gate, and some of the rooms have a ballpark view...no balconies, but still, can't get much closer than this.
Had there been a ballgame that weekend, I probably would have sprung for a room with a view so I could watch the festivities, but while it was opening weekend, the Cards were in Pittsburg while we were in their city. So, no stadium view for me. Once Adriana and her crew arrived, we met up in the lobby and I rode with them out to the city suburbs where they usually shop and eat while in town. I was very grateful to have friends who knew the area -- saved me from a lot of guesswork and trying to get recommendations/research online. Adriana and I had a glass of wine and chatted before dinner at PF Changs, and I got to know her awesome husband James (who gets a gold star for being so accommodating with us both all weekend; he's a great guy) and wonderful kids. It was a great meal; we all shared our entrees family style around the table and got to try a few different things. Sweet Adriana surprised me Friday night with an amazing race "care package" with some of my absolute favorite snack and fuel items, and also some beauty and grooming items too! What a treat to go through; it really was too much though!!
We started our day in the hotel restaurant; they have a great breakfast buffet. I wanted to help Adriana's youngest Izzy make her breakfast plate, and I will never forget how she conned me into filling up a plate with really nice fresh fruit -- lots of berries, citrus and melon. I asked her "Izzy, do you like strawberrries?" "OH YES," she said. "Strawberries make you big and strong." "Izzy, do you like blueberries?" "OH YES, blueberries make you big and strong." I trotted with her and the plate back over to the table with the rest of the crew, and Adriana and James immediately laughed when they saw Izzy's fruit plate. They told me she'd really like LOOKING at the masterpiece that I put together, but she wasn't going to eat all of it, no way. And as parents usually are, they were right...so I did my part for the cause and ate most of Izzy's food. LOL. Like a good girl though, she did try mostly everything so that's really all you can ask of an almost four year old. I also made Adriana's oldest, Troy, be my model in the hotel lobby when I spotted the race sign. He was a good sport dealing with all the race stuff over the weekend. Another benefit to staying at the Hilton at the Ballpark was the free shuttle they offered runners and families over to and back from the Expo on Saturday. It's not walking distance, so the shuttle saved us some time and cash for parking. We didn't love the Expo, mainly because of the layout. It was difficult to see what all was offered (the usual things, but still) because the booths were literally on top of each other and there was a narrow - and I mean narrow - aisle to make your way through. It's a nice facility, but seems like it would be better (and more accessible/kid friendly) to set up all the booth around the concourse outside of the seating area, where they had a few scattered booths set up. We quickly picked up our packets and race shirts and headed back out.
Adriana and I hanging out outside of the Expo. Loved the skyline behind us of the older section of town (facing away from Downtown, the Arch, etc.)
We spent the next part of the day back in the suburbs and did a little shopping and walking around a very chic mall that Adriana and family like to visit when they are in town, the Plaza Frontenac. And, of course, we found an Italian restaurant...both Adriana and I ordered spaghetti and meatballs....the serving sizes were ridic. I ate half of mine and boxed up the rest, I don't think A even made it through half of hers. Saturday night was all about relaxation; we didn't go back out and I definitely enjoyed a bit of downtime. Before we said good night, though, Adriana and Izzy came down to my room for a bit of a fashion show! Adriana showed me some options she was considering, and I showed her a few Oiselle pieces I brought with me. We did one last check of the weather forecast for Sunday, made some apparel decisions and said goodnight. I laid all my stuff out for the next day and turned out the light.
Sunday morning started bright and early with a 4:30 AM wakeup call. Adriana came down and got ready with me, and we had fun chatting and making final preparations. Neither of us felt any pressure of a PR-attempt day, but we both were crossing fingers that we ran without further injury. We knew we'd have a good time together regardless!
At the Starting Line
Checking Out Fellow Runners and Great Signs on the Early Miles
Running Through Anheuser-Busch Territory
Approach To Busch Stadium
Other than taking a GU Roctane right before the start, I didn't use any of my planned fuel (2 Accel Gels in my care pack from Adriana) on the course. Instead, I saved them for another day and enjoyed some unusual (for me) refreshments throughout the course. Just after the Holy Hill section, Crown Candy Kitchen set up a chocolate station for runners. Adriana and I were admittedly expecting a little more after hearing so much about the famed post-Hill treat. I mean, when I heard "chocolate station," I had visions of "treat yo self" in mind; in other words, something like this..
But instead, volunteers had boxes full of nonpareils for us. And while a little chilled from the cold weather, they were tasty! Yes, free chocolate given to you by nice volunteers is always better than no chocolate at all. We were thankful for it. And I also took in some carbs of another kind...of course, in the city of Anheuser-Busch, what's a girl to do when presented with not one but TWO different beer stops on the course? Of course, I drank from both.